Before we go any further, we’ll tell you flat out that Albert Melchior has three unfinished ’70 Firebirds (two Trans Ams and a Formula 400), a ’70 Z28, this ’72 RS, and two more ’73 Trans Ams. The four working Indians are recumbent in his recreation room, all of them on-the-boards handlers infused with everything from a 535ci displacement, canted valve cylinder heads, and forced air induction to RideTech suspension, big brakes, and six-speed transmissions. He’s got a pussycat cruiser, too, a pristine 51,000-mile ’68 Eldo, a Saleen, and an SS S10. The ’72 Camaro you see here? Man, it almost didn’t happen.
Al unearthed it in a place called Salmon, Idaho. His original thought: street fighter with a little bit of style. But … “The Pro Touring movement was just gaining steam in early 2006 and I didn’t realize that what I was looking for was a Pro Touring ride.
“The car was a rust-free superclean shell that an elderly lady had bought to try to draw her grandchildren into visiting her,” Albert says. “Apparently, it worked initially, then the kids got bored and stopped coming. She kept it for about 10 years, all the while meaning to sell it off and never getting around to it.” Let’s call Albert Melchior intrepid. His home is in Ontario, Canada, which isn’t exactly around the corner from Salmon. He went there with the idea that he’d be driving the Camaro to Canada. If you look on a map, you’ll see that Salmon is situated on (designated scenic) Route 93 that mimics the course of the Salmon River.
“On the way out, I almost drove the thing off the highway into the river. The views are incredible … and the car didn’t have a rearview mirror. I was trying to see something I’d passed in the side view when the road made a hard 90-degree right. Let’s just thank God for a lack of traffic and the fact that I was driving conservatively.” So Al didn’t go in the drink. After the sweat dried and his breathing became normal, he stayed on the throttle all the way home.
Al has been involved with hot cars for quite some time, so he knows who is capable and who flaps gums. His accomplice in the scheme was Rolando Presutto, a 30-year restoration veteran and the director of RP Motorsports in Vaughan, Ontario. Presutto’s guys did everything on the gig list, save for the upholstery and to finish the exterior. They brought the car down to its pure naked, sheetmetal self, panels, and a body shell. Though the car was completed in late summer of 2009, one of those modifications—pie-cutting the rear fender arches to flare them 11/2 inches—is the latest trend (but one that was evident more than 40 years before the advent of mini-tubs). In this instance, it’s been done in order to run a 315-series tire without having to assign mini-tubs; done correctly, it is invisible to most. Pro Touring parlance for cars with such modification is “fat bottom”, not fluffy bottom.
Al says, “More often than not, the car is driven by my son Albert Jr. It’s a wickedly fast street runner and we all have had fun with it, going the distance to shows (Toronto to Watervliet, Michigan, and Carlisle, Pennsylvania) and the Motorstate Challenge at Gingerman.”
Aside from the fat bottom fenders, the Camaro’s body is ultimately original, as is the engine bay and the interior. There is no billet bling, shaved driprail, or miniature re-creation of the space shuttle. Ultimately, Al put his money underneath his feet, in the all-aluminum big-block and the mechanical components that support it. Yeah, that’s money in the bank.